Friday, March 16, 2007

May your glass be ever full


Every year, New York City hosts a ginormous parade on St. Patrick's Day. A green stripe is painted down the middle of 5th Avenue, where thousands of people march, clan by clan, from 44th to 86th Streets. There are bands, costumes, revelry and jubilation. Also a few riots. More than two million people attend the festivities.

This year's parade, the 248th, is plagued by discord. The organizers have moved the FDNY from its traditional place in the front ranks of marchers to the middle. The firefighters carry 343 flags, one for each FDNY member killed on September 11, 2001. Some of them march slowly because of injuries suffered on the job.

The stated reason for the change is that last year, the parade was delayed a half hour while guest firefighters from New Orleans unfurled a huge banner thanking New Yorkers for their help after Hurricane Katrina. Parade organizers are still angry and feel a need to remind the firefighters who is in charge.

The president of the organizing committee added insult to injury by stating that firefighters show up drunk and continue to drink in uniform all day.

"He's made a huge mistake," said the head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association about the drinking charges.

Gee, you think? He'd better hope that his home does not catch fire and his cat does not get marooned on a 60-story ledge as he might have to wait a very long time for the fire department to respond.

Another touchy issue concerns gay rights. As further evidence of dissension in the ranks, a gay woman who serves on the City Council has elected to march in Dublin rather than participate in a parade that does not allow gays to march under their own banner.

Many people were upset a few years ago when it was discovered that the Grand Marshall was a former soldier in the IRA.

St. Patrick may have driven the snakes out of Ireland, but he would have a hard time eliminating controversy from the nation's oldest and largest celebration of all things Irish.

On St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish, or might as well be. Even the non-Irish wear green, and the pubs overflow with drinkers in need of green beer.

There are no huddled masses on this day. The multitudes are much too busy marching to huddle.

The year I was 20, I got caught in the maelstrom. I desperately needed to be on the other side of 5th Avenue but was unable to find a break in the onrushing throngs. Every time I tried to get across, I was swept away in the relentless stream of determined marchers.

I noticed a good-looking young black policeman keeping the peace nearby, and approached him.

"I'm not Irish," I said. "Can you get me out of this?"

"That makes two of us, baby," he replied. He grabbed my hand, placed his other on my waist, lifted me off the ground and waltzed us through the oncoming hordes of marchers, depositing me, breathless, on the opposite curb.

Then he lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it, bowed slightly, grinned at me and disappeared into the crowd.

I never saw him again, but I never forgot him either. He was my personal Superman, and for just a moment, I was Lois Lane.

28 comments:

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Sorry to hear about he discord. Why can't people remember to have fun instead of making statements and projecting egos? I really, really really like your story about the policeman. He's a hero in my book too. What an absolutely charming thing to do. What style.

About your comic book cover, did Superman ever marry Lois Lane?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Squirrel,

He was adorable and charming. That's why I still remember him.

I think Superman and Lois did get married in the original comic, but not in all the adaptations in which Lois is so stupid that she can't figure out who Clark Kent is.

The bride wore white, the groom wore blue and red and gold with a big "S" on his chest...

meno said...

I swear people can make anything into a fight.

That was a great story about the policeman helping you get across the parade route.

EsLocura said...

I grew up in NY, I would cut class every year to go to the parade. Once a police man stopped me and asked if I was cutting school, I said yes, so he said I should stand over there (pointed) to get a better view. I did and it was : )

Kate S said...

Thanks for sharing that. I won't comment on the political aspects (sheesh) but loved the policeman - great story. Has the makings to be the beginning of a wonderfully romantic tale, even tragic and ulitmately life-renewing given that it was New York. Now, I wonder if the talented writer who told us about it might do something with it? Hint hint... she has such great stories. :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Meno,

Sometimes, a girl just needs a ride across the street. I have never enjoyed being a damsel in distress more.

Eslocura,

New York cops are the BEST. I was once at a peace rally, people were getting into fistfights around me, and a policeman who was moving a sawhorse tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Watch your tootsies."

I think it's criminal to even have school on St. Patrick's Day in NY.

Kate,

The original post was just the story of the policeman and me with a little background on the parade.

Then I read about the brouhaha and added it.

Thank you for the writerly suggestions. I hadn't thought of expanding the romantic aspect, but he was a really cute guy with the kind of brash charm that can be so appealing. And he got the job done.

MsLittlePea said...

Yay! My sister is planning to go to that parade. I'll tell her to keep an eye out for that policeman if she gets into any trouble :o) I love handkissing-the receiving part not the giving part...makes me giggle like a school girl.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sweet Pea,

ME, TOO! I love handkissing. I'd probably be mortified if a man laid his coat in the mud for me, though, like Sir Walter Raleigh.

Grim Reality Girl said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!!

Hand kissing.... sigh :-)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Reality Girl,

Yeah. Handkissing.

Thank you for your visit! I followed the trail of breadcrumbs back to your blog, and I'll be back often.

Jocelyn said...

Okay, the waltz across 5th with the police officer just left me breathless. I'm going to love envisioning that moment for a long time.

The whole feeling of conflict and fray over the parade sounds *very* Irish, indeed.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jocelyn,

It was a great moment. I guess he's pretty old now, but to me, he'll always be an adorable young guy.

They're calling the conflict over the parade "typical Irish infighting." On top of which, they had to dig out of a snowstorm. St. Patrick weeps.

Bob said...

I never have celebrated St. Patrick's Day - I've never lived anywhere that did. Although, I did get a lot of pinches for not wearing green on the day. I'm still waiting to try my first green beer.

What a great story about the policeman. I can picture it in my mind, it brings a smile to my face. Thanks for sharing.

alphawoman said...

I loved this story!! In Ft. Wayne there is no parade, no celebrations, just another day. I have to leave for Louisville or Cleveland to get my fix. Being Irish and all.

Molly said...

Loved the policeman story!It's hard to beat old fashioned gallantry....as for the infighting ,yawn. I wish those grown men would just grow up already.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Bob,

I have never drunk green beer. Of course, I hate beer.

In NY, nobody would pinch you for not wearing green, as long as you didn't wear orange. Orange is of Ireland's enemy, and is really bad.

Alphawoman,

Ft. Wayne needs to get a life.

Thanks for coming by. I've bookmarked your blog, which I'm enjoying.

Molly,

That man had STYLE. Moxie. They all should.

As nearly as I can tell, the infighting is just business as usual. But as an ex-pat New Yorker, I'm siding with the firefighters. After their noble role on 9-11, they rule.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I decided to find out who the orange-wearers really are, as I never knew. They are a Protestant society, founded in Northern Ireland in 1795, which excludes Catholics and others who do not share their religious beliefs.

Since St. Patrick's Day has a religious basis, there have been many skirmishes on that day between the different factions, and the wearing of the orange is a sensitive issue.

Open Grove Claudia said...

So weird.... Everyone I know is Irish... Well, except for you....

I love the story of the policeman - very very cool.

goodthomas said...

Funny (or not so) that a day, an event, that is supposed to bring people together, bridge people, ends up doing quite the opposite.

I have always left St. Patrick to the Irish. He is their's, I won't trespass on the Irish's saint. I don't need to drink, or wear green or do my best Irish acent. St. Joseph is my saint.

And I love the ending with the policeman. I was taught that when kissing a woman's hand, one leg is forward, bowing at the waist and one always keeps eye contact.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Claudia,

Except for me. Hey, nobody's perfect.

I know several Yeats poems by heart. Does that count?

Thomas,

People can always find something to fight about. We are a strange and ornery lot.

YOU WERE TAUGHT HOW TO KISS A WOMAN'S HAND? I think I'm in love with you now.

My gallant policeman did keep eye contact, and I'm sure he must have done everything else right, too, as he wrote the book on handkissing.

St. Joseph is very cool, too. My son's name is Joseph. He is probably not a saint, though. I'll have to ask him.

CSL said...

Great story (not the bickering, which is such a shame, but the ending), and I bet you were on a high when you got to the other side of the street.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Csl,

Absolutely. I don't ask for much -- just a cute guy to carry me across the street now and then. The kiss on the hand was just icing on the cake.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I am not a fan of parades. In Port Sanilac, Michigan, they have something idiotic called "THE FARM IMPLEMENT CHRISTMAS PARADE". That's when they drape tractors, flat beds, and plows with tinsel and bulbs and ride them through the center of the town.

Here's to the Irish. Here's to the Firefighters. And here's to you, Hearts. Careful crossing the street, life may be a highway, but it's a dangerous one.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Stewart,

I've heard of that absurd display. Did you post something about it in December? I guess in a farm community, plows and tractors are holy relics.

I don't really like parades either, which was why I was so desperate to get out of that one. Sorry to say, I have never again met anyone willing to carry me across. (How hard could it be? I weigh 100 pounds.)

Molly said...

Meant no disrespect to NY firemen. Just think bickering among grownups is so...ungrownup. The Orangemen have their own parades,in July, I think,in the north of ireland.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Molly,

I didn't know much about the Orangemen, just that when I was a child in NY, anyone wearing that color on St. Patrick's Day got beaten up.

I'm beginning to think that when you get together any group of people, there will be discord. Kids have to learn it somewhere, don't they?

Judith said...

What lovely cinematic imagery I bet you and he walzted all the way home in your minds eye ahh tis the magic of the irish that came yer way that fine day

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Judith,

'Tis for sure. I don't really like crowds, but I've never felt safer than in that glorious few minutes, waltzing for my life.